Follow Jesus First

Follow Jesus First

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I haven’t posted in a while, so I thought I’d share something quick . This is one day’s thoughts while reading through the book of Luke.

The Pharisees asked Jesus why He and His disciples were picking grain and eating it on the Sabbath. Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5). Not the other way around (my two cents). In other words, we shouldn’t allow the law to rule us — it’s Jesus who rules. We shouldn’t follow laws so much as follow the Person of Jesus Christ. It’s not the law itself that’s god — It’s Jesus who is our God. Now, I’m a rule-follower so this gets hard for me. But when we follow Him, we won’t do what’s against His nature/character because He won’t lead us astray. Observing the Sabbath (day of rest) isn’t intended as a burden, but a blessing–rest for our well-being. When we make it difficult or burdensome,as the Pharisees did, it’s out of the bounds of God’s intentions. Let’s keep first things first. Follow Jesus first. Obey His laws because you love Jesus and are following Him.

We Were Made for Communion

My family departed–only to be gone for a few hours; yet, my heart sank, already feeling the loss. My attachment is real. Our last two children still at home interact with us in a personal, intimate way. The four of us, Don, me and the kids, are tight-knit. Our bond is unique and strong. I am amazed that these teenagers desire to spend time with me–to share life with their parents. And I am grateful.

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My screensaver while Don, Kenneth & Melinda were in Houston for eight days.

We were made for communion.

I think that’s why I felt their loss–why I wanted to cry when they left and the house was quiet. Even though the noisiness of everyday life can grate on my nerves, I missed their presence. Even though we may not say three words to each other in an hour’s time, I missed their company. I missed their smiles and antics; I even missed their pouts and complaints.

Communion is defined as “the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.” (Google) This describes my relationship with my husband and children. This should also describe my relationship with the Creator of the Universe.

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Never a dull moment with these two.

We were made for communion. Communion with those around us, but, more importantly, with the One within us. My bond with Jesus is also unique and strong. My heart should sink when I feel the separation between God and myself–when I allow our relationship to wither and weaken. I should invite His presence into my space, if only for whispering comments and calming effects as I go about my day. I should look forward to intimate times of prayer and conversation. I should miss Him when I’ve pushed Him away.

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We were made for communion. Find someone to interact with today. Open your Bible, get on your knees, and commune with the One who made us for communion.

A Tribute to Friends, Silver and Gold

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My “silver” friends. Love the bond we’ve formed already.

As a child I was shy and insecure. I didn’t make friends easily, as you have to look someone in the eye to befriend her. The friendships I did manage to form were the on-again, off-again type. (Can I just say girls can be mean? And I wasn’t always on the receiving end. I knew how to dish it out.) The difficulty in maintaining friendships was intensified by the fact that my family moved across country twice between my eighth grade year and my sophomore year in high school.

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High School Graduation

 

The moving didn’t cease. Since high school, I have lived in six different towns, moving, on average, every five years. Some would think this lifestyle makes it more difficult to make friends. While that was true of me growing up, as I’ve matured, it’s had the opposite effect. I am friendlier and more determined to find friends.

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My “gold” friends.

On my recent visit to IL, I re-connected with many of the friends I left last summer. I felt so blessed to be loved on by these precious ladies. On the flight home, I thought of the new friendships I’ve forged. I started reflecting on the groups of friends I’ve belonged to over the years–how attached I get, how difficult it is to leave. It reminded me of the Girl Scout saying:

Make new friends,

but keep the old.

One is silver,

the other is gold.

My attitude toward moving has changed. I used to be so emotionally devastated to leave the comforts of what I knew, I took a “don’t look back” approach, choosing not to stay in touch with those left behind. Additionally, my insecure-self knew I didn’t do friendships well, and I was sure I would be quickly forgotten. Now I seek new friends, overturning every rock, looking for them like the gems they are, not forsaking those established relationships. Now I cherish each friend I have – one is silver, the other is gold.

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More “gold” friends.

So here’s to friends!

They fill us up. They cheer us on. They teach us.

They encourage and admonish. They give us strength to face the day.

They laugh with us, and cry with us–on occasion at the same time.

They rejoice in our triumphs and mourn our losses.

They pray for us on a good day.

They pray for us when we have lost our hope and have no words.

They know our strengths and weaknesses, our strong points and flaws, our courage and our fears–and yet love us.

They hug us hello and hold our hand when we hurt.

Without friends, our marriages would suffer and our sanity would flee.

Friends are a gift from the Lord. Cultivate and nurture your friendships, old and new.

One is silver, the other is gold.

In the comments section, tell me what you love about your friends.

Overrun

It’s barely visible. It sits off the road a bit in a neighbor’s yard. But that’s not why Don had missed it time and time again. No, Don had missed it each time we rounded the block on our walk because it was camouflaged. But this time he noticed. “Look, there’s a swing in there.”

“Yes,” I replied. Underneath and in between the overflow of foliage sat a swing.

I imagine the original owner sitting there in the cool of the evening with his wife, rocking their cares away. Instead of the traffic we now hear zipping by, they hear the cicadas and woodpeckers and other animals rustling about. They watch the sunset, whispering about their day, holding hands underneath a beautiful arch of greenery and blooming, fragrant flowers.

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But now the home is vacant and the swing is overrun. It’s not functional. It cannot be used for its intended purpose. No one can sit and swing. There are obstructions, barriers. Because of the neglect of the owner, the plant life has taken over. The vines have intertwined with each other and the structure in such a manner that the swing is engulfed and unusable. It needs an overhaul. It needs someone to care enough to clear away the obstacles, to snip and chop and carry off the excess plant life.

If we aren’t careful, our lives can be overrun. We may allow something that was once beautiful to take over.  If we don’t keep things in their rightful place, trimming and maintaining, they may overrun us to the point of unusefulness.  We won’t function as we were intended. We must allow the Gardener access to the areas of our lives that may need reduced or shaped.

When we allow things around us to enhance us, to help and not hinder, we will thrive. We will be used by God and glorify Him.

What things, be they materialistic or abstract, are threatening to overrun your life?

Will you go to the Gardener and allow Him to trim it back?

Mary Was My Age

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Last night we saw a dramatic presentation of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion. It was seen through the eyes of several witnesses. One of those witnesses was Mary, Jesus’ mother. The actress, playing the part of Mary, stated she was “old.” Now I know old is a relative term, but it didn’t sit well with me. So I started doing the math.

Tradition states in Biblical times a Jewish girl could be betrothed as young as age 10 or 12. We do not know how old Mary was during her engagement to Joseph, pregnancy, and the birth of Jesus; but, based on common knowledge of the culture at the time, we could guess somewhere between 10 and 16.  What we do know is Jesus was crucified when he was 33. So I added 14 (possible age of Mary at Jesus’ birth) and 33 (Jesus’ age at time of death) and got 47. 47! That’s my age! (That’s NOT old!) But that’s not my point.

When I started thinking of that blessed mother as someone my age, something clicked. There was Mary at the foot of the cross watching her son die. My heart sunk. For Mary, He wasn’t only (as if Jesus could be described as “only” anything) the Messiah; He was the baby she had nursed and the child she had raised.

What if that were my son on the cross? The pain would be excruciating.

I wonder if Mary clung to the hope she had that Sunday was coming. That Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection was the hope for the world. That all Gabriel and Jesus had told her would come to pass.

As I walk through trials and hurts of life, I cling to the hope I have.

It may be Friday . . . but Sunday’s a comin’!

Merry Christmas, from Florida

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Don, Barb, Kenneth & Melinda Winters with Samuel and his fiance, Ashley

We miss God’s beauty in snow on the ground (a little) . . . but are basking in the 80 degree weather.

We’ve added one (Samuel) and lost one (JT) . . . but there are still five of us journeying together.

We miss our old jobs and co-workers . . . but are thankful for new jobs and those helping us through.

We miss celebrating Christ’s birth with our friends . . . but are meeting and making new.

We are reading our advent book in a different house . . . but it’s the same candles and the same story.

We will spend Christmas Eve outside with a different group of people . . . but it’s still for God’s glory.

We will spend Christmas Day with different family members . . . but it’s still the same celebration.

Some things change, but Christ never will . . . yesterday, today, and in tomorrow’s expectations.

Merry Christmas from the Winters Family

 

Transplant

Don bought me flowers. More pointedly, he purchased two hibiscus shrubs, each displaying one beautiful flower. New house. New yard. New plants. We loaded them into the van and drove them home.

We waited a day to transplant them, taking time to contemplate the perfect spot. Within those 24 hours, the ninety-degree heat took its toll and each lost its flower, its prettiness, its initial attraction. By the time we shoveled a hole and buried the roots, they were thirsty. So we watered; and watered some more.

We still water.

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As we water, I watch as many of the lower leaves turn from a deep green to yellowish-green to yellow. Every time I walk outside I pluck a newly-turned yellow leaf from the foliage hoping to stimulate and strengthen the plant, hoping to see new growth, new blooms.

I was told transplanting is hard on plants (it’s called transplant shock), but with proper care (trimming, watering, patience) they should bounce back and flourish again.

I am a transplant–most recently uprooted from IL and implanted in FL. As the transfer affected my new plants, so has the upheaval affected me. It seems my flowers have fallen off and my leaves are yellowing. My roots are searching for new ground to grasp. I am thirsty.

There is an appropriate time to prune and pluck and re-evaluate oneself–a time to go back to the Creator and ask to be cared for. This is my time. I’m on my knees. I’m in the Word. I’m worshiping. I’m listening. I’m waiting. My roots are long and healthy and I have plenty of deep green leaves, so I know I will eventually bounce back and flourish again.

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Maybe the sight of a big, bright yellow flower on my hibiscus shrub will inspire a small bud in my life.